Turning Knowledge Management Inside Out – Inside INdiana Business
Most companies protect their secrets more aggressively than they protect the lives of their top executives. It has been reported that only two people at KFC headquarters know the exact proportion of the eleven herbs and spices behind the Colonel’s original recipe. Coca-Cola’s secret formula rests in an Atlanta vault. And don’t expect the folks at Google to release a how-to guide to their cutting-edge algorithms anytime soon.
Our success in business process outsourcing is also based on a valuable secret. It is the company’s process for developing and leveraging knowledge about its business partners. We take a thorough approach to learning everything we can about their processes and procedures, documenting every detail, repackaging it into formats for immediate access and sharing, and constantly updating and refining it.
Your organization knows a lot. Part of it lies in the brains of your subject matter experts. Some of them hide in a dark corner of a server, on a post-it note on someone’s desk, or on a piece of paper someone wrote down during a lecture. In fact, you probably have no idea how much knowledge your organization has, so you can’t take advantage of it.
So we step in to gather and glean knowledge from all sorts of sources. More importantly, we know how to organize this knowledge and turn it into documents and written steps. So when a customer calls with a familiar issue or an employee doesn’t know what to do next, the answer is there. Instead of leaving this knowledge scattered between people and paper, we organize it and keep improving and improving it. This allows you to access the hidden value in knowledge to make customers happier and employees more efficient.
We develop what we call a service catalog, where we document everything your organization does and who you do it for. By capturing, organizing and documenting everything your organization does (and who does exactly what), it becomes easier for management to understand the potential impact of decisions. It draws attention to potential problems and conflicts. It provides a roadmap for allocating current resources and identifying future needs. And that highlights the opportunities for efficiency.
We also document the entire company. Why? Because of Phil. He’s a seasoned computer scientist, and his employer’s technology has evolved into something increasingly complex and multi-layered. It’s a stew of new gear and legacy rigs held together with the digital equivalent of duct tape, kite string, and rubber bands. It works because Phil makes it work. When an accounting module suddenly stops communicating with an inventory application, Phil sighs, presses a few keys, and within minutes everything is fine.
One problem: Phil is going to die tomorrow morning. And when he dies, so does his employer’s IT, because he’s the only one who knows how everything really works. So instead of storing all that enterprise knowledge between Phil’s ears, we document every bit of it – from enterprise topology mapping, to server logs, to application and maintenance of runbooks, to modify the policies – and explain how each element interacts with all the other elements. That way, if the entire IT team leaves tomorrow, their replacements will have everything they need to keep the business running. More likely, when something breaks, it will be much easier to figure out how to fix it.
Much of the knowledge we gather and use stems from problems. A customer tries to install your new widget, and it doesn’t work. An employee entering information about a customer request into your database cannot find a menu item that matches the problem. Problems aren’t inherently bad—often they are the source of innovation and improvement. Sometimes they inspire a sort of band-aid that circumvents the problem and provides an easy fix. Other times, they call attention to the need for major engineering or code changes. Either way, everyone learns from them.
What is learned in the problem management process makes organizations more informed. So if we change our perspective and focus on finding and solving problems, we become better at managing change. Through root cause analysis, we uncover the real sources of problems, document potential solutions, and develop sound recommendations. This leads to better quality and service, as well as even more efficient issue handling.
The results of all these strategies? Significantly higher customer satisfaction scores and well ahead of industry standards in every metric we track. Knowledge management is just as powerful. So what do you know we should?
Jeff Medley is the CEO and Founder of Netfor, https://www.netfor.com/